Surprising Yet Common Symptoms of Mild TBI and Concussions

Mild TBI

Have you ever fallen out of a tree, taken a tumble off your bike, or bumped your head? A common misperception many people have is that most hits to the head are relatively harmless. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s why.

The human brain, despite its incredible power, is a very delicate organ that is the texture of soft butter. It is housed inside a very hard skull that has many sharp boney ridges to help protect it. The brain is not fixed in place but rather floats in a thin layer of cerebral spinal fluid. Therefore, any hard force against the head can injure the brain by causing it to slam up against the inside of the skull, including those sharp ridges.

Experiences like head-to-head collisions in football or hockey, whiplash injuries from car crashes, or simple household accidents such as being hit in the head by a heavy object falling from a closet shelf frequently go untreated even though they can result in some degree of injury to the brain. These can cause an array of symptoms—some that may surprise you—that you may not realize are related to head trauma.

Most people are unaware that even mild head injuries can cause a wide array of neuropsychological and behavioral problems. Click To Tweet


After getting hit in the head, many people think they can just “shake it off” and don’t think too much about it even if they get a little headache or feel a bit queasy afterward. It’s not unusual for someone to believe that if they didn’t lose consciousness or crack open their skull, they’re OK. However, a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI)—or concussion—can cause actual harm to the brain, including:

  • shearing of the axons—the fibers that allow brain cells to communicate with each other
  • bruising of brain tissue
  • disrupting the flow of oxygen to the injured areas in the brain
  • broken blood vessels, bleeding, and blood clots
  • cell damage that causes increased inflammation in the brain


Symptoms that can emerge shortly after a “mild” head trauma include:

  • Feeling confused or disoriented
  • Onset of a headache
  • Dizziness and fatigue
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Sensitivity to noise or light
  • Problems with memory or difficulty concentrating
  • Increased moodiness
  • Irritability/anger
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Brain fog
  • Anxiousness
  • Difficulty with sleep
  • Balance and/or vision problems
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
  • Lost sense of smell and/or taste

In many cases, however, these symptoms may take several hours or days—or even a few weeks to become apparent, which can make it difficult to connect the dots back to the head trauma as the cause. And, unless they’ve experienced these same concussive symptoms before, most people are unaware that even mild head injuries can cause such a wide array of problems.


Although most people recover from mTBI events, approximately 25% will continue to struggle with symptoms that interfere with the quality of their lives, and sometimes in very serious ways. They could be affecting how you feel, perform at work or school, and how well you interact with others. Most people are unaware that even mild head injuries can cause a wide array of neuropsychological and behavioral problems.

For example, research has shown that head injuries increase the risk for many mental health conditions, including:

Untreated head injuries can also lead to aggressive or violent behavior, personality disorder symptoms, problems with the law, an increased risk for dementia, and even suicide.


If you go to the doctor to get help for symptoms such as these, your physician may completely overlook the possibility that you have had head trauma, especially if you don’t bring it up. One of the reasons for this is that most doctors don’t look at the brain, and if they do, it is usually with a CT scan. Although this type of imaging is critical for identifying any bleeding or a potentially life-threatening blood clot, it does not provide much information about how the brain is working. Brain SPECT imaging—an advanced technology that measures blood flow and activity in the brain—offers more valuable information regarding how the brain is functioning.

On SPECT scans, unhealed brain injuries show as areas of lower-than-normal blood flow. Depending on the parts of the brain that are affected, different kinds of symptoms can emerge. For example, injury to the prefrontal cortex can adversely affect mood, impulse control, and concentration, while damage to the temporal lobes can be linked to irritability and anger problems as well as memory issues.

What’s even more alarming? SPECT scans have revealed a high prevalence of past brain injuries in people who don’t recall getting hurt or who think that their injury was too insignificant to cause any damage or symptoms. At Amen Clinics, which has accumulated a database with more than 200,000 SPECT scans on tens of thousands of patients, approximately 40% of those patients have experienced a brain injury.


Millions of people have bumped their heads at some point in their lifetime, yet many of us don’t remember the incident or believe it was insignificant. To determine if you might have had a head injury that could be contributing to lasting symptoms, ask yourself these questions. Have you ever:

  • fallen off a horse, a ladder, or a roof?
  • slipped on an icy surface in winter or fallen backward on skates and bonked your head at the ice rink?
  • been in a car accident, even a minor one, and hit your head on the dashboard, window, or steering wheel—or gotten whiplash?
  • hit your head on the bottom of a swimming pool after diving into shallow water?
  • been struck in the noggin by a baseball or bat while playing the game?
  • suffered a physical assault that involved your head?
  • tumbled out of the top bunk, a tree, or off the jungle gym at school when you were a child?
  • had a concussion from playing contact sports?
  • fallen on your head while cheerleading?
  • or any of many other possible causes of head injuries?

If you think you (or a loved one) may be struggling with lasting symptoms of a concussion or other type of brain injury—even if it was long ago—it’s important to get a comprehensive evaluation by a medical professional who is knowledgeable about head injuries. By doing so, you can be given a targeted treatment plan to help reduce symptoms and improve function in areas of your brain that have been causing problems for you.

Brain injuries, concussions, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. if it is a brain injury what could we do?.

    Comment by AronHerzog MSW — October 14, 2022 @ 6:27 AM

  2. I have had several falls and head injuries over my past 68 years of living and I have several problems that may be related to these injuries. I also have a terrible foot injury that has not been resolved for over 15 years mostly due to failures in the medical system. And who pays double for these errors? I have paid with excessive charges and a poor quality of life. Dr Amen needs to be more specific about what he can do. And then there is what my insurance will pay for. I am also tired of seeing specialists that are outside of insurance networks that then tell me they can’t really help me.

    Comment by David Sparks — October 14, 2022 @ 6:45 AM

  3. Get kick in the head by a cow at 3 years old,fallen down hay shaft at 10..could they mess my brain..At 68 I’m suffering distraction,oh look a squirrel…I’m abusing alcohol at the present,for the stress and anger I feel.I hate my life,and would like to step off the un merry go round.

    Comment by Peggy — October 14, 2022 @ 6:54 AM

  4. Thank you for the important information- very helpful & interesting.

    Comment by Elaine — October 14, 2022 @ 7:10 AM

  5. My daughter got hit in the head with a baseball bat many years ago. She has terrible anxiety and depression that is treatment resistant. Wondering if head trauma could be the cause. She is an adult now and struggling for many years.Nothinh has helped her.

    Comment by Bonnie Durante — October 14, 2022 @ 7:36 AM

  6. I was in a car accident 12 years ago. Hit by 3 cars going 65 mph on the freeway. Was in a glass glow 6 coma for months. Recovered a Barrows. They said I recovered. I learened how to walk and eat again. I disagree! I spend every day in pain. Emotionally scared of everything. Extremely depressed. The Dr tell me I have so much to be happy about. This angers me. I have no emotional support. No one calls me or asks me to do things with them. My appearance I look great I’m 5’5 110 lbs. Because I take care of myself. I was raised if you cry I will give you something to cry about. The few times I asked for help. I was told I just need antidepressants. I took them for 10 yrs. they didn’t make happy just sleepy and numb. I had no emotions.
    This is my story.

    Comment by Susan — October 14, 2022 @ 10:40 AM

  7. I have fallen a lot and hit the back of my head really hard sometimes and when I was little I always bang the front of my head off of walls. If I get a SPECT scan of my brain, is there like anything that can be done to help my brain. Because I have really bad memory and I'm only 21 but I have hit my head so many times before.

    Comment by Rachael — October 14, 2022 @ 12:02 PM

  8. From radical dental treatment some 15yrs ago i found that a crack to the back left of my head whilst swinging as a 2yr old, fractured my skull, I was knocked out and took much time to regain consciousness with no medical treatment! it was 1952 in the u.k. and apparently the accident also skewed skullbones and squished my pituitary. Had little craniofacial extension, teeth out at 7/8yrs, frustrated puberty, desperately painful menses and eventually, ovarian cancer at 47

    Upon the release of my pituitary at 58yrs, i then became feminised – not as i would have, at puberty naturally, but enough for me to notice, alongside understanding many physical, emotional and intellectual difficulties i had encountered throughout my lifetime, i am 73yrs now!

    The relevant article to read, if interested, which was given to me early on, is "Temperomandibular dysfunction and systemic distress" Dr Justin Glaister, Private Dentistry Jan 2010.

    i couldn't have been able to delve if i had not read that article

    Comment by penny waters — October 14, 2022 @ 12:48 PM

  9. Thank you for sharing this ,having been involved in a auto accident was hit on side of the head and suffered Concussion recovering ok no PST symptoms
    Liverpool UK

    Comment by Paul Traynor — October 14, 2022 @ 1:58 PM

  10. Is the SPECTA BRAIN SCAN COVERED BY REGULAR Medicare 65 and older AB

    Comment by ottis johnson — October 14, 2022 @ 3:44 PM

  11. I would love for my family to have their brains scanned but we are just not in a financial situation to do so.
    I am 57 with lobular breast cancer, and have just finished my first chemo treatment. I played sports and have had a couple of mild head injuries.
    My husband is 61. He has panic attacks. I know he has had some minor head injuries too.
    Our daughter is 24. I remember her falling off the counter when she was 2-3 years old. We took her to the Dr. and she did have a mild concussion. She is super smart, but failing out of graduate school because of anxiety, depression, and what I think is ADHD.
    We also live in Stroudsburg, PA.
    I have Atena insurance and my daughter has Blue Cross Blue Shield. My insurance is switching to Blue Cross Blue Shield at the beginning of 2023.
    How much will the cost be? Our funds are low with all of our other medical conditions.

    Comment by Karen Stylianides — October 15, 2022 @ 5:32 AM

  12. I suffered a concussion a 2 years old I'm 64 now had problems all my life

    Comment by Robert Brady — October 15, 2022 @ 1:43 PM

  13. What about those of us with TBIs who can't afford the $5k+ SPECT Scan & evaluation? Not to mention the cost of the care program. Will you guys ever accept insurance, or is this more so just for those who have the excess money to get care, and not those who lost everything to their TBIs? Those of us who can't get good jobs because we can't recover, are stuck in a vicious cycle. Wouldn't it be better to help us too, so we can be fully functional members of society again as well? Give us a chance to regain our lives at least. Most TBI survivors can't afford the cost of this care out of pocket. But we need it the most. I'm not asking for it for free, just that y'all work with insurance to help cover at least a good portion of it. Or maybe start up a financial aide program we're donations cover costs for those who can't afford them. Why isn't that an option?

    Comment by K — October 23, 2022 @ 6:02 PM

  14. Are you currently addressing the issues about brain specks not being covered by Medicare and your treatment plans not covered by Medicare? Since your treatment has proven results this should be a top priority by your organization a it has to be affordable too. Help and a cure is life saving and needs to be supported by our society.

    Comment by Carolyn M — October 31, 2022 @ 5:41 AM

  15. Where in Canada can a SPECT scan be performed? I live near Winnipeg MB.

    Comment by Anita Cockerill — November 3, 2022 @ 5:34 AM

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